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Election holds future of young, undocumented immigrants in the balance

By Kate Morrissey, The San Diego Union-Tribune on

Published in News & Features

SAN DIEGO — Among the many policies that will be on the ballot Nov. 3 is what will happen to the lives of thousands of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children.

The Trump administration has tried to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, which began under the Obama administration. For the past four years, Trump officials have argued that the program is illegal and should be stopped.

DACA has so far survived only through court intervention. Even after the Supreme Court issued a decision in June that it should be fully restored because it was improperly ended, the Trump administration implemented further restrictions on the program.

DACA offers temporary protection from deportation as well as work permits to this group of immigrants, often called "Dreamers," after they pass background checks and prove that they've lived in the United States since 2007.

But DACA recipients have to be at least 15 years old, and those who hadn't applied for the program before the Trump administration first tried to end it in September 2017 have not been able to apply since then.

Many immigration attorneys thought that the Supreme Court's decision over the summer meant that the program should open again for first-time applicants and began preparing their clients to apply.

 

But toward the end of July, the Department of Homeland Security issued several new DACA restrictions, including saying it would continue rejecting people who apply for the first time. DHS officials argued that if the department rescinded previous memos and issued a new one, it wouldn't be in violation of court orders.

An accompanying memo indicated that the administration still believes the program should not exist.

Soon after, San Diego attorneys began to receive notifications that new applications they had submitted were being denied.

"It was very frustrating," said attorney James Rudolph, who filed more than 20 first-time DACA applications following the court order. "We have a president who told us we're all supposed to follow the law and obey the rules except when it comes to himself."

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